Pension selection may haunt widow after husband's death

Posted: August 14, 2012

DEAR HARRY: I have been a widow for the past two years. My husband worked for a government agency for more than 30 years. During that time, he gave me many "important papers" that he told me to keep in a folder that would help me if he died first. I applied to receive his pension but was told that I was not entitled to it — that it was for him only. I went to the folder and searched long and hard, but I could not find any papers relating to his pension. Many times when we discussed money, he would tell me that we would not have to worry about retirement because we had this pension and Social Security. I had no trouble getting the SS, but I get nowhere trying to get the pension. I have some of his old pay stubs showing a pension deduction, but the people at his workplace tell me that there is no way I can get anything. Help!

WHAT HARRY SAYS: I am not too optimistic. I have the strong feeling that somewhere along the years, an election was made for a single-life pension, not a survivorship pension. However, his employer should have shown you some documentation rather than string you along. Contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration at 215-861-5300. It will be able to help you get to the bottom of this. Let's hope I should have been more optimistic.

Email Harry Gross at harrygross@phillynews.com or write to him at Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, Box 8263 Philadelphia, PA 19101. Harry urges all his readers to give blood — contact the American Red Cross at 800-Red Cross.

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